Opinion: After Leading the Nation in Renewable Energy, Rick Perry Targets Solar and Wind Power

Wind and solar have combined with natural gas to produce virtually all the nation’s major new electrical capacity; coal and nuclear are economically less competitive.

Opinion: After Leading the Nation in Renewable Energy, Rick Perry Targets Solar and Wind Power

 

It is incredible that in the 21st Century, in the most technologically-advanced nation on Earth, tens-of-thousands of Americans had to take to the streets to march in support of science. And, their expressions of support are efforts to protest the current government’s attack on science that will have a devastatingly detrimental impact on the Earth’s environment. It was an apropos gathering on Earth Day.

This series of protest marches is particularly important since this week Trump’s Department of Energy secretary issued a memo that is not only contrary to science, it will affect the environment’s health and exacerbate the effects of climate change. Some on the left may think as little of DoE Secretary and former Texas’ governor Rick Perry as this author does, but while governor he was, in fact, an ardent supporter of renewable sources of energy – all a product of science and all contributing to saving the environment from fossil fuel-driven death. But then he joined Trump’s administration.

First, it is noteworthy that as governor, Perry supervised expansion of Texas’ wildly successful Competitive Renewable Energy Zones. It was an initiative that spurred the construction of electric transmission lines to connect with renewable energy facilities. That initiative took great advantage of wind and solar, and energy storage facilities as a preferred option for sustained power grid reliability; options he now says “have destroyed jobs and economic growth, and threaten to undercut the performance of the grid.”

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Perry’s sudden reversal is due to being tasked by Trump as Energy Secretary to start “prioritizing fossil fuels [coal] and nuclear energy over renewables.” He made that abundantly clear in his memo, reported by Bloomberg, where he said the United States is “blessed as a nation to have an abundance of domestic energy resources, such as coal, natural gas, nuclear, and hydroelectric. These sources provide a stable, reliable and resilient grid.” As ThinkProgress’ Mark Hand noted, “nowhere in the memo did Perry list wind, solar, or energy storage as options for grid reliability.

The primary point of Perry’s memo was complaining about “regulatory burdens” on fossil fuels, and mandates and tax and subsidy policies he claims are forcing baseload power plants to shut down prematurely. A base load on a grid is the “minimum level of demand on an electrical grid over a span of time, for example, one week.”

Perry doesn’t seem to have an issue with the billions of taxpayer dollars going to the fossil fuel industry as subsidies, or the tax credits the oil industry receives while helping decimate the climate. However, with the Koch cabal pulling the Trump administration’s puppet strings, Perry suddenly has a real problem with renewable energy credits and state legislatures mandating that a percentage of energy be generated by clean and renewable energy sources; mandates that are economically and environmentally beneficial to all Americans. There is no doubt whatsoever that if the Kochs could charge Americans for accessing solar and wind for their electrical needs, there would be free-of-charge solar panels on every building in America and Koch-branded wind turbines in every field.

Integrating a diverse combination, not just fossil fuels, of generating resources was a “hot topic” at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, including regional transmission organizations. It has to be noted that “electrical grid resiliency” was a high priority during President Obama’s administration; Perry is not coming up with anything new except forgoing any interest in renewable sources to prioritize using dirty coal.

In fact, as his tenure came to a close at the Department of Energy (DOE), in January former Secretary Ernest Moniz released what is being called “a comprehensive assessment” by the DOE of the nation’s electric grid.

An order for a new “comprehensive assessment” took The American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE) by surprise. ACORE expressed confusion with Perry’s decision to initiate a brand new study founded on the bullshit idea that renewable energy policies are somehow responsible for undermining electrical grid resiliency. ACORE also can’t accept the notion that solar and wind are responsible for the decline of coal and nuclear plants. This is particularly true because Perry’s conclusion has been debunked regularly, including just last year.

According to numerous studies, including a 2016 long-term reliability assessment from the North American Electric Reliability Corporation, ACORE noted the “reality today” as opposed to the Trump administration’s fake news and Rick Perry’s lies.

ACORE’s president and CEO, Gregory Wetstone said in an emailed statement:

The reality today is that renewable power offers the only realistic economic alternative to natural gas. Together, renewables like wind and solar have combined with natural gas to produce virtually all of the nation’s major new electrical capacity since 2014. The fact is that low natural gas prices have made coal and nuclear less competitive economically.”

Mr. Wetstone’s remarks are not any kind of revelation, not to officials in the fossil fuel industry nor in Trump’s administration. But like everything remotely related to the Trump, facts don’t matter when the dirty energy industry is doling out gargantuan campaign donations that allow them to dictate Trump’s energy policies.

What really defines Energy Secretary Perry’s lack of decency is that despite knowing exactly how beneficial, how reliable, and how inexpensive renewable energy source are, he is going in the opposite direction. Under his governorship, his expansion of renewable energy sources across the state helped Texas lead the nation in wind-powered generation capacity with “more than 18,500 megawatts,” according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Rick Perry is as vapid a piece of work as the man who tapped him to attack renewable energy sources and “prioritize” fossil fuels and nuclear sources. It takes a special kind of malcontent to know what works, saves the environment, and is more economically feasible than the alternatives and then go in a completely opposite direction. In street vernacular Rick Perry is nothing but an insipid meat puppet. But that shouldn’t be surprising; he was, after all, appointed Energy Secretary by the nation’s champion two-bit meat puppet, Donald J. Trump.

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